Federal Immigration Judges Impede Alien Removal

Published on August 24th, 2016

By Joe Guzzardi
August 24, 2016
Add a new culprit to the long list of reasons why the United States can’t deport illegal immigrants. To be sure, President Obama’s White House and the Bush administration before it had little sincere interest in ridding the United States of aliens. Just the opposite—on multiple occasions both presidents pushed hard but unsuccessfully for amnesty and eventual citizenship for about 12 million unlawful residents.
But a Syracuse University-based nonprofit, the Transactional Records Access Clearing House (TRAC), has identified another villain in the continuously stalled effort to deport aliens, federal immigration judges. Over the last ten months, the judges have blocked the Department of Homeland Security’s attempts to remove 96,223 aliens, including hundreds of convicted felons. The 10-month total puts the judges on a pace to exceed last year’s 106,676 record dismissed cases.
Illegal immigrant-plagued Phoenix, New York and Denver are the most adversely effected by the judges’ forgiving rulings. The federal Phoenix Immigration Court had the highest percentage of excused aliens; 82 percent of 3,554 cases were decided in favor of illegal immigrants followed closely by the New York Immigration Court, with 81.5 percent of 16, 152 cases, and the Denver Immigration Court, with 78 percent of 831 cases. Perhaps more troubling than the raw data: the pardoned aliens acquire permanent legal status and qualify for work permits.
The TRAC report explained how judges base their decisions. The reasons include the government’s failure to meet its burden of proof requirement to show that the individual was deportable, that the individual may have been entitled to but denied asylum or that he may have been eligible for relief under other legal provisions. Finally, an alien may been allowed to stay in compliance with an Immigration Customs and Enforcement request that the particular case be closed administratively, commonly known as prosecutorial discretion, a program started in 2011 and which gave ICE almost unlimited authority to close pending immigration cases.
The justices’ generosity benefits Mexicans, as one in four of the illegal immigrants allowed to stay is a Mexican national. Following closely behind Mexico are the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Many of the Central Americans are so-called unaccompanied minors or alleged family units who know that they can, with impunity, cross the border and, in all probability, qualify for permanent residency either through amnesty or, should they have the bad luck to receive a deportation order, a judge’s decision.
In the months ahead, activist judges will become increasingly lenient. TRAC estimates that a staggering 500,000 or more immigration cases are backlogged. Dismissing the cases means less work for the judges than ruling in favor of deportation, and then facing endless appeals that would likely end up with the same favorable—for the alien and his lawyer—outcome. The longer an alien remains in the U.S., the greater the odds that he’ll be allowed to stay for his lifetime.
A foreign national who may be considering an illegal entry has plenty of motivation to pack his bags. Across the globe, it’s common knowledge that the U.S. doesn’t enforce immigration laws, and also well known that for those that manage to enter, establish family ties, and stay out of trouble, the chances of removal are slim. But the TRAC study shows that illegal immigrants have another comforting possibility to consider: a federal immigration judge’s blessing.

Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact Joe at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at joeguzzardi19

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